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Budget Cuts Threaten Local Energy Lab

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), with two big facilities in South Park and Morgantown, is not well-known, but -- working with local universities -- it's America's fossil fuel research lab.

"We manage a large portfolio of government research related to energy, primarily fossil energy," says Dr. Anthony Cugini, the director of NETL. "The fossil energy portfolio is managed by NETL and that includes coal, oil and natural gas. So a lot of the advanced research and innovations that are being looked at using those resources are being done at the labs."

But some of the 1,200 employees at all NETL labs could lose their jobs if Congress cuts their funding by $87 million, a nearly 20 percent reduction.

That concern brought U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and other officials to Pittsburgh, saying such budget cuts threaten the future use of local coal and natural gas.

"The fossil fuel research that's done at NETL, the clean coal research, the carbon capture sequestration research, the research that is not only connected to the development of the Marcellus Shale but did a lot of the research that allowed the extraction technology to come to the fore in the last generation," noted Casey at a press conference with Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald.

When U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Muniz sat down with KDKA money editor Jon Delano in July, he denied a war on coal or fossil fuels, noting millions spent to make those fuels environmentally safe.

"It's probably especially important for coal to be part of our energy future," said Muniz.

But Casey warns these budget cuts threaten research to make coal and natural gas cleaner and safer.

Casey says a senate committee has already approved the budget cuts, but he believes it can be reversed in the full Senate and in the House of Representatives.

And he emphasizes that America's coal and natural gas -- if used environmentally -- allows the United States to end its dependency on foreign oil.

Five universities are also involved in this research -- CMU, Pitt, Penn State, WVU and Virginia Tech.

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